By Ainsworth Rand Spofford
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Additional info for A Book for All Readers: An Aid to the Collection; Use; And Preservation of Books and the Formation of Public and Private Libraries
But there are bright exceptions, in the lives of literary men and women, and in some of those of noted public men in church and state. Thus, there are few books more enjoyable than Sydney Smith's Memoirs and Letters, or Greville's Journals covering the period including George IV to Victoria, or the Life and Letters of Macaulay, or Mrs. Gaskell's Charlotte Brontë, or the memoirs of Harriet Martineau, or Boswell's Life of Dr. Johnson. Among the briefer biographies worthy of special mention are the series of English Men of Letters, edited by John Morley, and written by some of the best of contemporary British writers.
Ouida and Trilby may endure for a day, but Thackeray and Walter Scott are perennial. It is better to read a fine old book through three times, than to read three new books through once. Of books more especially devoted to the history of literature, in times ancient and modern, and in various nations, the name is legion. I count up, of histories of English literature alone (leaving out the American) no less than one hundred and thirty authors on this great field or some portion of it. To know what ones of these to study, and what to leave alone, would require critical judgment and time not at my command.
Reynolds' novels were excluded by twenty libraries, Mrs. Southworth's by eleven, "Ouida's" by nine, and Mrs. Stephens's and Mrs. Henry Wood's by eight. Other details cannot find space for notice here. This instance is one among many of endeavors constantly being made by associated librarians to stem the ever increasing flood of poor fiction which threatens to submerge the better class of books in our public libraries. That no such wholesome attempt can be wholly successful is evident enough. The passion for reading fiction is both epidemic and chronic; and in saying this, do not infer that I reckon it as a disease.